THAT FAMOUS mental toughness was evident on Newcastle main beach but it wasn't enough to ensure Courtney Hancock retained her Nutri Grain Ironwoman title.
Despite starting the weekend's final round of the series in sixth position, the fighting qualities of a champion helped the Coffs Coast's favourite surf sport star to reach fourth place overall behind dominant rival Liz Pluimers.
Courtney finished fourth on Saturday and third in Sunday's eliminator to reach a final total of 73 points.
Pluimers won five of the six events to win the series with 113 points, ahead of Rebecca Creedy on 93 and Harriet Brown on 90.
While taking a fourth championship title was always a tough ask, Courtney had early warning on day one this wouldn't be her year.
"I knew from the beginning it was going to be tough," she said.
"It was a bit of an unsettled start but I really felt better as I went on.
"Fourth still isn't where I want to be but I think looking at my performance today is what I take into the final round."
However, Sunday's podium finish helped claw but some lost momentum.
"Today wasn't really about the result.
"For me it was about what happened in the race and the confidence I gained getting 10 to 15 metres off the front.
"When I got on the final board I told myself I had a chance to win.
"Being in a position to come back and get up there with a sprint finish for second place was good."
After an inconsistent season, Courtney acquitted herself admirably in the final round.
"I really wanted to finish things off on a high.
"To be honest I felt better and better but there was such a difference between the first race and now.
"It's been six years that Liz and I have been battling it out for the title and there are plenty of girls who have been waiting to jump up and take their chance.
"Having three titles each with Liz now it will make for a great rivalry next year.
"Especially with those three girls - Liz, Harriet and Rebecca - the standard's just going to keep getting better and better."
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